Jehovah Strengthens Those Who Prove Loyal
As told by Gresham Kwazizirah
I WAS born in a small town called Ncheu in the African country then called British Central Africa, later called Nyasaland and now Malawi. Birth records were not legally required at the time, but I believe it was about 1896. At that time European missionaries of various religious denominations had introduced the Bible to us eager African people. As I had learned at school to read and speak English, I had for some time been an avid reader of God’s Word the Bible.
When I was finishing my education at school, our elder of the Presbyterian Church gave us the opportunity to ask him questions concerning the Bible. For a long time I had wanted to understand the meaning of Revelation 17:1-5, about the mystery of “Babylon the Great.” I asked him to explain this passage of Scripture.
Speaking rather harshly, he replied: “This is not the time for this scripture to be interpreted by a human, but we wait till Jesus’ second coming and he will give the meaning of this.” My mind was not satisfied; I thought that someone, somewhere, should have the explanation.
In time I found employment at the General Hospital in the capital city, Zomba. It was while I was working there that one day I accepted an invitation to a religious meeting of persons using the term “Watch Tower.” This meeting was to bring about a great change in my life.
When I met with them I listened to the talk entitled “God Sanctifies His Organization,” in which the book of Revelation was explained. My attention was captured as I thought back to the Presbyterian elder who had been unable to answer my question about “Babylon the Great.”
BAPTISM LEADS TO A TEST OF LOYALTY
As I had become impressed by the truths from God’s Word, I decided to leave my employment at the hospital and go back to my home to work with this organization, as a group of them were meeting near there. When I located the overseers of the group, I asked them to obtain for me the seven volumes of Studies in the Scriptures, published by the Watch Tower Society. When I finished the volumes, I asked the overseers or ‘pastors,’ as they were then called, to baptize me.
They told me that, since I had been a teacher in the Presbyterian Church, it would first be advisable for them to go with me to the district commissioner (the local government officer for native affairs under the British colonial regime) in the town nearby to explain the matter, in case the Presbyterians should make trouble for me. We saw the district commissioner, and I was baptized in January 1925.
When the news reached the clergyman of my former Presbyterian congregation, he warned all my former associates, telling them that I would try to convert other members of his congregation. I had a trying time when I was taken to the district commissioner, the very one whom we had visited before I was baptized, and was falsely accused of wanting to “teach people that war will come from America which will kill all the chiefs and the district commissioners as well, and that they [Americans] will take their places.”
The district commissioner took me into custody for a month and forwarded the case to the provincial commissioner, a higher government official. Thus my baptism led to a test of loyalty. Would I be faithful to Jehovah and his organization, or fearfully renounce my faith because of clergy pressure. I determined to be loyal.
The provincial commissioner meanwhile went to my hometown of Ncheu to check into the case and pass judgment. He found that the clergy accusations were groundless and due to jealousy. He told the district commissioner that, in investigating the Watch Tower Society’s literature, he had not found even one page to prove the accusation. So I was released from prison, strengthened and determined to carry on Jehovah’s work.
BLESSINGS FROM FULL-TIME PREACHING
Some time afterward, I left my home and obtained employment from Nyasaland Railways and was sent to Mozambique. In 1933, I received a letter from a European representative of the Watch Tower Society, R. A. McLuckie, who was coming to Malawi to open a depot for the Society. When I read this news, I immediately left my telegraphist’s job in Mozambique and hurried to meet him. I was soon assigned as a full-time preacher of God’s Word and was sent to my first assignment, at Chiradzulu. Here my ministry was singularly blessed by Jehovah, and after six months I went to a new assignment, leaving behind many proclaimers of the good news as the nucleus of a strong congregation.
For my next assignment, at Mangochi at the southern end of Lake Malawi, I was joined by another full-time preacher, Brother Kupheka. Because transportation was difficult in those days, we had to carry our cartons of literature on our heads from Zomba to Mangochi, a journey of nearly one hundred miles. Our loads became lighter and lighter, since we distributed most of the literature on our way. In this territory the people in general were difficult to talk to because of their Moslem religion. They were rooted in tradition and superstition. We had just one interested person with whom we associated during our four-month stay there.
The Society thought it beneficial to give us a new assignment. This time we were to go to Lilongwe, which then had one congregation, but there were many interested persons. We knew that the journey from Mangochi was a long one, 177 miles. This did not unduly concern us, however, for the joy of the full-time ministry gave us strength and we arrived there after walking for five days. Our new territory turned out to be well worth this effort, because the people were tired of their worldly customs and false religious traditions. They were thus receptive to the truths of God’s Word, which would set them free from this yoke. Soon, Witnesses and interested persons were meeting in twenty-two locations in that area.
The last part of the 1935 service year saw the extension of our territory to include the nearby town of Dowa, where the Kingdom message was also received favorably. Our activity was again blessed by Jehovah to the extent that, after only four months, proclaimers of the good news were meeting in four more locations.
On October 10, 1935, I was appointed to another service position, that of regional service director, or regional servant as we were called after July 1936. In this new assignment, I traveled throughout all the northern province of the country, visiting my Christian brothers to help them with their ministry and to give Bible talks. At first I was nervous, thinking how great the responsibility was and wondering if I would be able to fulfill it. However, I found that Jehovah gave me strength to do his will, as long as I relied upon him.
MINISTERIAL VISITS TO THE CHIEFS
Part of my assignment in the north of the country was to visit the local chiefs, who had prohibited our work in their area, with the consent of the governor. For this purpose, the Watch Tower Society had provided me with a letter of introduction to all the chiefs with their names listed on it. In order to explain our work clearly and aid in spreading the Kingdom message, the Society had arranged for me to give a talk on “The Days of Noah,” where this was possible.
At the first village I visited, the chief read the letter of introduction and promptly called together all his subjects along with the religious leaders in his area and other prominent persons. He acted as chairman for the meeting, announced the theme of my talk and asked the audience to listen carefully to the end, when they would be given opportunity to ask questions. There were no questions when I finished speaking, so the chief said: “If you keep silent there is no reason for stopping the Witnesses from preaching in this area of mine.”
One of his counselors then stood up and said: “Well, your excellency the chief, this young man has spoken the truth, which cannot be denied, and no one seems to have any word of opposition on the points we have just heard.”
So the chief replied: “I have opened up my area so that the Witnesses may preach here, and if anyone opposes them, he will be fined.”
I was strengthened by seeing that Jehovah’s spirit was backing me up in doing his work. Even though the chief’s court clerk tried to cast a magical spell on me and threatened that I would die that very night because I had managed to persuade the chief to approve of our preaching, no harm came to me despite a risky encounter I had during the night with a black mamba, a poisonous snake.
Gradually the whole of the northern province was opened to our witnessing activity, as the chiefs came to understand our preaching work more clearly. I am grateful that I was used by Jehovah in opening up the work, and I was thrilled to see the stronger ones encouraged, weaker ones strengthened and the congregations increasing in number.
POSTWAR PRIVILEGES AND TESTS
After World War II we became better organized for expansion. Circuits of Jehovah’s witnesses were organized in 1946 with semiannual assemblies. In 1946 I was appointed as a district overseer of Jehovah’s witnesses, and it was my privilege to cover the whole country, visiting circuit overseers and circuit assemblies.
I very much appreciated the association of missionaries from the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead, who began to arrive from late 1948. Some of these joined me in the district work and later, when I became a circuit overseer in March 1957, I benefited greatly from their experience, helpful counsel and example.
In July 1960, when I was about sixty-four years old, the Society considerately, due to my advancing years, appointed me as a special pioneer minister. Since that time I have witnessed continued expansion in the Kingdom work in Malawi as the proclaimers of God’s kingdom have increased in number from 14,000 to over 23,000. I have also seen two periods of intense persecution, in 1964 and 1967, and marveled at how Jehovah has strengthened us so that we could endure it.
I myself had a number of encounters with fanatical political party members who threatened my life. After a group of these had left my home, they sent a man with a knife who had been made to swear that he would kill me. When he arrived at my home, I was just finishing shaving. I gave him a chair to sit down. He secretly drew out his knife, but I saw him as I turned around. He began to tremble when he realized that I had seen him. I asked: “Have you come to kill me?”
He said that he had been sent to do so, and named the three persons who had sent him. “They say you are responsible for the people’s not buying [political party] cards. That is why they have sent me to kill you,” he continued. “Here I am,” I said. But fearfully he answered: “No.” Then the two of us went outside my house and he went away to his home. The three men he named still continued to harass me and threaten my life, but not long afterward their leader was sent to prison for acts against the government.
We here in Malawi have experienced trials such as our Christian brothers in other countries suffered under Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin and others. But we are thankful that Jehovah’s organization has prepared us for fiery tests by counsel in the Society’s publications. The expulsion of the missionaries from our country and the closing of the Watch Tower Society’s branch office in 1967 emphasized to us that the present wicked system of things is moving ever nearer to its end and is soon to be removed.
When I look back on my almost forty years in full-time service, I am glad that I have stayed with Jehovah’s organization. It is from Jehovah’s organization that I have received answers to my many Bible questions, including the one about the identity of the mysterious “Babylon the Great.” How grateful I am for the Watch Tower Society’s book “Babylon the Great Has Fallen!” God’s Kingdom Rules!, which presents abundant evidence that the mystic Great Babylon is none other than the world empire of false religion! How grateful I am for the privileges I have been given to help people flee out of “Babylon the Great” before it is too late!—Rev. 18:4.
Thankful also am I for the strength received from Jehovah to carry on these many years. During this time I have seen that the persecutors of Jehovah’s people have been unsuccessful; in fact, some of the persecutors have humbled themselves and have become Witnesses themselves. Therefore, along with my faithful Christian brothers in Malawi, I confidently look forward to the future, knowing that Jehovah will strengthen us for what lies ahead as long as we prove loyal.